Pas’ espousal of a welfare state, its new leadership line-up and a more inclusive vision have set off alarm bells in BN circles. Ronald Benjamin writes that the party has adopted enlightened positions of late.
The new political line up of Pas and the focus on a ‘welfare state’ is good news for Pakatan Rakyat because in it, a common understanding of justice is realised: the welfare of ordinary citizens would take precedence in the formulation of policies.
This common understanding is vital for the survival of Pakatan Rakyat not only before it attains federal power but also if it is given a mandate to rule.
Good governance is always linked to policies that are based on the common good of the nation. The ‘welfare state’ concept has an inclusive character that would be welcomed by all Malaysians irrespective of ethnicity and religion.
This why Umno and its Utusan mouthpiece have become worried ever since the welfare state concept was articulated. This pair never cease to condemn Pas through their common irrational ethnic-religous rhetoric in the belief that ethnic Malays would continue to support race-based policies if ethnic emotions are kindled to the maximum.
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Looking back at Pas as a political party over the years, it has taken a principled stand against ethnic bigotry played up by Umno. For example, in the 1990 general election when Umno was embarking on the propaganda about the so called tengkolok salib and the media propaganda for Pas to join hands with Umno to break the so-called diabolical threat posed by non-Muslims supposedly bent on taking over the country, the Pas leadership stood its ground. It did not succumb to such evil and false propaganda.
In the current situation, where extremists linked to Umno have told Christians not to use the word Allah, Pas has taken a principled stand that Christians can use the term even though such a stand could be regarded as politically damaging for the party. The interesting part here is the party was objective in coming to a decision; it was not a political decision based on expediency.
By adopting positions like these, Pas has shown its religious credentials, which are far more enlightened than the exclusive identity-based ‘Islamic state’ in which forms and ritual predominate resulting in a dichotomy between Muslims and non-Muslims.
Ronald Benjamin is an Aliran member based in Ipoh.